IKnowFood is a £3.3m project, initiated in October 2016, led by the University of York’s Management School with collaborators from across the Universities of York, Liverpool, and Manchester.
Funded through the Global Food Security – Food System Resilience programme IKnowFood supports individuals and organisations across the food system in developing their knowledge of resilience and adapting their processes to provide a more stable food system.
Systems of food production, trade, and consumption are increasingly vulnerable to interconnected political, economic and ecological shocks associated with climate and environmental changes, shifts in farming practice and changes in consumer lifestyle. However, interconnectivity between the different stakeholders in the food supply system is limited and often leads to trade-offs and tension. For example, forms of farming that can better withstand extreme weather do not necessarily support the health and wellbeing of consumers, and may struggle to supply the volumes or quality standards demanded by robust global supply chains.
IKnowFood is working in three main areas:
- With farmers, scientists, and engineers to develop technologies that help and supplement farmers’ existing knowledge of resilience. Farmers already have a great understanding of their soils, crops, and animals, however through the development and application of novel, low cost sensor and imaging technologies this knowledge can be enhanced and supported through data and analysis.
- With food producers, distributors and retailers, to undertake an integrated analysis of food commodity supply data to identify opportunities for building resilience within the distribution and supply system.
- With consumers, both through engagement with individuals and with population data, to better understand the drivers of consumer choice within and between socioeconomic groups, and the consequences for public health resilience.
The N8 Research Partnership has assisted in the development of the IKnowFood programme through two major activities; the N8 Industry Innovation Forum in October 2014 and the N8 AgriFood Resilience Programme.
The 2014 N8 Industry Innovation Forum, held at the Food and Environment Research Agency near York, saw delegates from industry, universities and other organisations and networks address topics related to Food Security including smart farming methods, achieving resilience supply chains and health nutrition with the aim of generating new, step-changing innovations in the field of global food security.
The N8 AgriFood Resilience Programme (AFRP) is a £16m programme that was initiated in 2015 with the intention of transforming the way research into food security is performed. Encompassing three inter-connected strands of work the programme provides a network and framework for collaborative, inter-disciplinary research between universities and industry that span the entire food security spectrum from food production to consumer behaviours. By supporting basic and applied research, industrial engagement and knowledge exchange, the AFRP is supporting academics to develop a more holistic approach to research in this area.
IKnowFood benefited from the activities of the N8 Industry Innovation Forum to help develop the industrial network of supporters that are part of the proposal – one of the key successes of the Forum was the ability to bring significant industrial players together with academics from the 8 universities.
IKnowFood will also benefit from the support of the N8 AgriFood Resilience Programme (AFRP). Access to the network of engaged academics will enrich and enhance the research that the project can achieve – indeed the collaborators at Manchester and Liverpool were identified and engaged through the AFRP. Furthermore the network of Knowledge Exchange Fellows and industry contacts will be vital in ensuring that the impacts of the IKnowFood programme are taken up and used for maximum benefit across the range of stakeholders.
Partners on this project include academics from University of York Department of Health Sciences, Politics Department, Environment Department, Stockholm Environment Institute at York and The York Management School as well as academics from The University of Manchester’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Psychology, Health, and Society.
The project is supported by a range of industry partners including fair trade pioneer Cafedirect, multiple supermarkets (Sainsbury’s and Waitrose), LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming), Soil Association, IAgrE, Luc Hoffmann Institute (Worldwide Fund for Nature), NFU (National Farmers Union) and CABIO (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International).
The research is funded through the Global Food Security – Food System Resilience programme with contributions from BBSRC, ESRC, NERC, and the Scottish Government and is supported by the York Environmental Sustainability Institute (YESI) and the N8 AgriFood Resilience Programme.
Professor Bob Doherty, Principal Investigator of IKnowFood, from The York Management School said:
“The N8 Research Partnership has been fundamental in the development and evolution of IKnowFood from its inception to its funding. The N8 Industry Innovation Forum was vital in bringing together key industry leaders and greatly enhanced IKnowFood’s industrial support. The N8 AgriFood Resilience Programme has been extremely helpful in identifying collaborators that contribute expertise too IKnowFood . The support that the programme can offer through the Knowledge Exchange network was an important aspect in convincing the funders of the excellence of the programme”.